Why Online Reviews Matter

According to a survey, 80% of respondents said they are more likely to purchase products or services in-store if there are positive reviews on the company’s website, mobile site, or Facebook page.

A survey by Dimensional Research, sponsored by Zendesk, found that:

  • 88% of Internet users have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a purchase decision.
  • More people report specifically reading positive reviews (69%) than negative ones (63%).

5 Tips To Get More Online Reviews 

Tip 1. Offer great customer service.

This one is a no brainer. Give people a great experience and they’ll want to talk about it. But the importance of good customer service goes two ways. Not only does a great experience increase the likelihood of a new client, but a poor – or even just subpar experience – can improve the odds that you’ll lose a client in the near future.

Feel like you’re already doing everything you can when it comes to customer service? Why not conduct a satisfaction survey to see if there are problem areas that you might be unintentionally overlooking? There’s always room to improve, and sometimes, clients can see those issues more clearly than you can.

Tip 2. Go above and beyond.

This could technically tie into the previous point, but we want to emphasize how important this is, and how it’s about more than just providing friendly service with a smile. Going above and beyond means doing the unexpected, such as providing free kits with appointments and coffee and tea in the waiting area, forward booking, going out of your way to accommodate and care for grieving pet parents, and just generally going past what’s expected of you. It’s very easy and tempting to fall into the mindset of, they’re not paying us to do this much, so why should we? But word-of-mouth recommendations are born from the unexpected, including the things they know you didn’t have to do, but did anyway. And if you foster a culture in your vet clinic of taking things to the next level, going the extra mile will become second nature.

Tip 3. Give people an online reason to talk about you.

What do people love talking about more than anything? Themselves! And when they’re particularly happy or proud of something, they’re highly likely to share it. A good way to tap into this is to share pictures of your patients online (with permission, of course). When you tell clients that you’re featuring their pet on your Facebook Page, you’re encouraging them to share that post with their friends and family. Not every client will share, but some will, and many of your clients have hundreds of Facebook friends. So even a few shares will get you in front of hundreds of eyes. Don’t miss this valuable opportunity to spread your clinic’s name. As an added bonus, your patients make great subject matter for your practice’s Facebook Page. It’s a win-win for your clients and your clinic.

Tip 4. Offer an irresistible deal.

This tip isn’t for everyone. We understand that some clinics don’t like to give out discounts for a variety of understandable reasons. But for some clinics, a good deal can be a fantastic way to generate buzz, whether that’s a free first-time check up for adopted pets or 20% off dental cleanings during February. When clients get a good deal, they’re highly likely to tell others. And while a discount may just bring clients in for one visit, if that single visit includes the amazing customer service we mentioned earlier, clients might find they want to come back for even more.

Tip 5. Participate in the local community.

Participation in local events can be a great way to get people talking and thinking about your practice. Does your practice team turn out to local fundraisers or even host your own? Setting up a neuter/spay clinic or similar event can take time and effort, but if you do it right, you’ll not only help prevent overpopulation, you’ll also generate buzz for your practice at the same time. Occasionally, doing something that might cost your clinic a little right now (e.g., a fundraiser for a pet charity) could pay out big time in the long run. Don’t forget to alert local media about your event. A well-timed email or phone call could have a local radio station setting up a booth at your event or some coverage on the local news – and that would be well worth the effort! Ultimately, more online reviews are only partially within your control.

How To Ask Reviews from Happy Clients? 

vet client

The answer is client satisfaction surveys. These simple surveys are sent out to clients following a visit to determine their level of satisfaction with their appointment. You can send out a general one, or if you want to get more detailed, you can make the survey more specific to the type of appointment.

When someone responds positively to the survey, that’s your opportunity to strike while the iron is hot. Respond with an email telling them how glad you are that they had a great experience, include links to your online accounts, and ask them to write your practice a great online review, This ensures that you don’t ask any disgruntled customers for reviews that could ultimately hurt your practice, and you’ll make sure your biggest fans have the opportunity to share how much they love you.

The beautiful thing about client satisfaction surveys is that they don’t just allow you to identify great experiences. They also enable you to immediately know when someone has had a poor experience. A negative response to a survey is the perfect opportunity to reach out to that client for further information, discover why the visit went poorly, and rectify the situation before it results in a bad online review, or worse, a lost client!

You can send out these client satisfaction surveys and review request emails manually after each visit, or you can use a reputation management system like VSmart Alert to do the legwork for you. It comes built in to LifeLearn’s WebDVM websites, and automatically sends out surveys based on the visit type, identifies positive responses and sends a follow up email requesting reviews, and notifies you about negative experiences so you can rectify them.

How to Respond to Online Reviews

Online reviews also serve another important purpose: they’re an opportunity for your clients to speak to you. That’s right –  they’re posting because they want to hear back from you.

This makes monitoring and responding to your online reviews essential. By catching those negative reviews early, you can respond to them quickly and take the opportunity to turn a bad experience into a good one – and get that pesky review removed or even updated with a happy ending! It’s never fun to get a negative online review, but in many cases, it’s also an opportunity to respond to a bad experience and turn it into a better one.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to claim your Google Business Profile listing, your Yelp Business page, and enlist the help of your Brand Advocates to get the ball rolling. Don’t forget to post some of those testimonials on your website!

How to Handle a Negative Review

Step 1: let’s look at why hits to online reputations happen.

Unfortunately, this answer isn’t quite cut-and-dry, but one of the most common reasons is bad exposure online or on social media. It could be an unhappy customer who wanted to sensationalize a perceived issue, a disgruntled former employee trying to stir the pot, or even a poorly timed social media post that got a lot of attention.

Yes, everyone has the right to express themselves when these things happen—and your practice also has the right to open up a conversation about it. Let’s have a look at what you can do:

Step 2: Don’t panic.

The thing about hits to your online reputation is that they can be a great opportunity to showcase your practice’s customer service. Stop and think: What was said? How could you potentially prevent this issue from coming up again?

For example, let’s say the issue is someone who had to wait too long in the waiting room for their appointment, and took to social media to compose a long-winded complaint.

First, have a look at your check-ins that day. How long were people waiting on average? Did this person wait longer than usual? Were they late for their appointment, and had to wait for the next slot? These are all important questions to ask.

Tip: Remember to answer all of these questions objectively. Don’t pre-emptively assume it was anyone’s fault.

Step 3: Plan your response.

Never, ever answer damaging posts or comments about your practice in the heat of the moment. Think of your online reputation as a game of chess; your opponent has made their move, and now it’s your turn to figure out what you’re going to do.

It might help to analyze the situation a little. Think:

Who: Do you know who this person was? Was it a client of yours? Was it a one-time customer? Was it a competitor?

Why: There may be situations where you’ll know why a customer chose to complain online. If this is the case, make sure you have an airtight way to respond to it. After all, if you have insider knowledge like that, you might as well use it!

What: What were they saying about your practice? Look carefully through the complaint, and make sure you know everything they’re saying—and come up with a possible solution or response for every point.

How: How did they phrase everything? Were there overly aggressive or accusatory terms, or was it level-headed? This will give you an idea of whether you need to tread lightly or speak on the same level.

Where: Where was the complaint posted? If it’s on social media or another public forum, you may be able to address the complainant directly (or request that they contact you directly). If it’s on a third-party site like Yelp, you may need to address the issue through that site.

Step 4: Make your move.

Once you know how you want to handle the situation, it’s time to take action. Reach out to the complainant with a personalized message, whether you’ve chosen to use an email, a private message on social media, or another format.

Be sure to stay diplomatic, whatever else comes your way. Address any criticisms; don’t shy away from it, and don’t take it personally. There will always be differing opinions, and it’s more constructive to ask your critics if there’s something they think you could be doing instead. If they’re being unreasonable, however, it’s time to end the conversation.

What if it’s bigger than just one complainant?

There may be cases where, for whatever reason, more than one person is complaining of the same issue at a veterinary practice. It could be a former employee who caused some damage to the practice’s reputation, or even a drug recall that affected several pet owners.

In these events, you may wish to consider doing a public address, something like a post on your website that you email out the link for. It may also be a good idea depending on the severity of the issue to discuss it with a local news source if they bring it up—but be very, very careful. Make sure it’s a source you trust, and that you get to read over (and edit) anything before it gets published.

It’s also important in a situation where your online reputation has taken a hit to learn from what happened. It may not have been a mistake made by anyone on your team, but it’s still worth learning from what happened! You may find a new way to handle your online presence, or even a new process to introduce to your practice! So if you want to put your practice’s best paw forward, remember to monitor your channels, be transparent with your pet owners, and be ready to handle anything—even a hit to your online reputation—gracefully and effectively. 

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Need a hand keeping an eye on your practice’s online reputation? WebDVM websites come with VSmart Alert to help you see what pet owners are saying about your practice.

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